"Wine is water come of age." - Father Capon

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Samichlaus: A beer for the winter cold

If you haven't had a Samichlaus yet, you need to. It is the perfect company for a cold winter's night by the fire. From the bottle: "Samichlaus is brewed only once a year on December 6, and is aged for 10 months before bottling. It is one of the rarest specialities in the world. Samichlaus may be aged in the bottle for many years to come, as older vintages become more complex. Brilliant deep amber, complex dry toasted malt nose and huge intensely sweet palate." Deeply warming too (14% Alc). 

Monday, December 06, 2010

Blaise on wine

Blaise's description of Tsillan Cellars Bellissima Rossa 2006: "Hard, dry dirt, dark cherries, waxweed, and dried sour candy canes." I missed the candy canes.

Bordeaux meets Washington State

The other night S made us a killer meal of French dip sandwiches with a simple salad of mixed greens, Stilton cheese, olive oil and Basalmic vinegar. It was ridiculously good and it called for wine with a backbone. So we opened two Bordeaux blends from Washington state: Tsillan Cellars Bellissima Rossa 2006 and Alexandria Nicole Quarry Butte Red 2008. Both were very well made and quite enjoyable.  We decanted both for over an hour. The Quarry Butte was still showing signs of youth with a nose of licorice, minerals, dark cherries and a bit of toasty oak. Plenty of tannic grip on the palate with a burst of cherry juice and tobacco on the finish. It was really nice and a steal at 11.00 (Costco). The Bellissima Rossa presented and exotic nose of almond toffee; I immediately thought of steamed butternut squash with butter and brown sugar. The palate was a lovely mixture of mint, tobacco, smoke, oak and cherry juice. Though the Belissima Rossa was the better wine (Tsillian Cellars won a number of gold metals with this wine), I was impressed by how similar the two were in broad outline (the Washington terroir was unmistakable). Neither of these wines were pushovers; though the fat of the french dip mellowed their tannins noticeably . I was again impressed by the solid QPR coming out of Washington state. At 11.00 the Quarry Butte competes favorably with wines three times the price.

Liquid food

"I was brought up with wine. My parents would give me a little bit of wine with water during our dinner, and I grew up looking at wine as liquid food. As a result, when I went to college and watched my classmates overindulging in beer, scotch, etc., I was surprised." - Robert Mondavi 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Beware of supermarket wine "sales"

I'm still upset about this. Today, I stopped by a local supermarket to check out their "one day, 20% off" wine sale. Now, I know this store and I generally keep track of their stock and prices and I was disappointed to discover that along with the 20% discount, a shocking number of the wines had seen price increases from previous week of around...20%. To the observant eye there were very few wines that turned out to be really good deals, most were no lower than you could find on any other day of the year. But the allure of a discount is a powerful thing, as I discovered later that evening when I stopped by the store again to pick up something for dinner. To my even greater shock, the wine aisle was full...full of people taking advantage of the "sale"; buying wine by the case. Buyer beware. There are loads of good deals out there (I have been particularly impressed by uncorkdeals.com), but supermarket wine isles can often be misleading because the "retail" price (which you almost never pay) is artificially high, often higher than you would pay at the winery. So, let's say you have your favorite wine X and the price on the shelf says that it's price is "normally" 15 bucks. But this week the supermarket is running an advertised special that marks wine X down to 12.99. Now, on top of that they have a one day 20% off sale. That brings the price of wine X down to 10.39. Wow! That's a great deal, right? It is unless you happen know that discount stores routinely sell wine X for 8.99. Compared to 15 dollars, 10 seems like a nice savings, but the deception is that no one in their right mind pays 15.00 for wine X. Don't be fooled by great savings on artificially high prices. The blessing and curse of supermarket wine pricing is that it is constantly changing. Which means that sometimes you can find a really super deal and at other times you can get taken to the cleaners. And a lot of folks today got the feeling of a great deal without really getting one. This explains why, at times, supermarkets can afford to sell wine below their cost. They make up for it later. Do your homework on your favorite wines and watch for a good price, not a good sale.   

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why I love WLTV...

Wine as freedom and grace

"Wine represents and encourages this elevated life beyond necessity and calculating rationality. Its very existence depends on surplus; one does not ferment the grapes or grain needed for survival. At a meal, too, it is a sign of freedom and grace, and also their cause. Offered to guests it betokens easy generosity, demonstrating that one clearly has more than the necessities for oneself. Indeed - to reconnect this discussion of the human food more explicitly to the humanizing custom of hospitality - drinking wine with someone goes beyond breaking bread. For wine permits and encourages us to let down our guard, to be at ease and in intimate communion with one another; the offer of wine expresses trust in and desire for such intimacy. For only with certain kinds of people, those who already are or we hope will become our friends, do we let wine dissolve our prudent caution. If basic hospitality, as was said, is an assertion against the dog-eat-dog character of the world, sharing a bottle of wine lifts us to the next step: the assertion of the friend-loves-friend possibility of the world, of human intimacy founded on more than common neediness." The Hungry Soul - Leon Kass

Monday, November 08, 2010

A meal as a rite

"A meal is still a rite - the last 'natural sacrament' of family and friendship, of life that is more than 'eating' and 'drinking.' To eat is still something more than to maintain bodily functions. People may not understand what that 'something more' is, but they nonetheless desire to celebrate it...they are still hungry and thirsty for sacramental life." For the Life of the World - Alexander Schmemann

Friday, November 05, 2010

"Try before you buy" may change the way you buy wine

Recently, uncorkdeals.com rolled out a new "try before you buy" program. Like many discount wine sites, uncorkdeals offers great discounts and free shipping on 6 or more bottles. But if you are like me, I'm reticent to commit to 6+ bottles without having tasted the wine even if it is a great deal. Now that problem is solved. Uncorkdeals will send you a half case or a full case and let you try the wine before deciding if you want to keep it. If you don't enjoy it, they will send you return shipping and you can send them back the remaining bottles. Free shipping both directions and you only pay for the bottle you tasted. Now that is a great deal and great customer service.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Kiona Cabernet/Merlot 2004

This is was great find. Every once in a while the great ten dollar wine hunt turns up a gem. The folks at Kiona say that in crafting their Cabernet/Merlot they "wanted to make this the best Tuesday-night wine in Washington: easy to drink, goes well with everything, won’t break the bank, and not boring." Well, S and I agree that they've done that in spades. This wine is anything but boring. The first thing you notice when you pour it into your glass is its color: it's got a beautiful copper tinge to it, showing that its got some age. There is definitely spicy notes of oak on the nose mixed with red fruit. And here's the amazing thing: this wine ages in oak for 36 months! At first I was worried that this was going to be too oaky, like the 2003 that I had tried previously. But on the palate the 2004 is much more restrained, the oak is there but it is balanced by lovely tart cherries and tobacco. Given a little air time, the wine becomes even more integrated. It is far more complex than most wines in 10.00 price range. My wife was really seduced by this wine, especially its tartness/dryness (almost like a barolo) . The tannins were nicely integrated and the fruit comes across with an attractive restraint giving it the feeling of refinement rather than power. It was even more enjoyable with savory food which highlighted the flavors of red stone fruit. The blend is interesting too: 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Merlot, 2% Syrah, 1% Sangiovese. If you are looking for a wine with complexity, food friendliness, and maturity built in, and all for under 10 bones, then seek this out (folks in our neck of the woods can find this for 8.00 at Winco). We loved it and will definitely buy more.  You can find the Kiona page (complete with a video from the One-eyed wine guy) here. 

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Two Really Satisfying Washington Wines

The other night we had a special family dinner after a long day of moving a generator and two sets of batteries. To go with dinner we choose two bottles of wine from Washington State that none of us had tried before: Chateau Ste. Michelle Canoe Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 and Northstar Columbia Valley Merlot 2006. Both bottles were priced in the low 20s. Since they were about twice as much as the bottles I normally drink, I was interested to see if we would like them well enough to buy them again (which in my book is always a sign of a good wine regardless of the price point). I am happy to report that we all loved them and not only would buy them again, but would heartily recommend them to our friends. I opened both bottles a couple of hours beforehand to let them breathe and was immediately impressed by the color of the Ste. Michelle; the cork was stained a really dark purple/red. The concentration continued on the nose too: dark cherries and tobacco. It's beautiful in the glass, very dark and viscous looking - almost brooding. Wow, it is a joy on the palate. Full and rich, like riding in your grandpa's Cadillac, but at the same time quite supple and balanced (defying its brooding appearance). The tannins were amazingly well integrated for a 2007. All in all, this was really enjoyable to drink, a beautifully crafted wine with power and elegance. You can read Ste. Michelle's profile sheet here. The Northstar showed well too. It reminded me of why I really enjoy Washington St. Merlot. Though lighter in color than the Ste. Michelle, it was equally intriguing on the nose. The winery's description matched my impressions (not always the case): "Elegant and medium-bodied with bold aromas of raspberry, mint, maple, chocolate, clove, coconut and licorice. Dense, muscular, cherry fruit flavors culminate in a rich, smoky, coffee-mocha finish." The only thing they don't mention is the oak, which was prominent on the nose and added spicy notes to the finish. However, it was not overwhelming and became even more integrated with air time (I would decant this next time). This was also very satisfying to drink and really grew on me as the evening progressed. You can view the Northstar fact sheet here. Find these wines if you can, they would make excellent companions to Thanksgiving dinner (for those of you who are not Pinot fans) or Christmas prime rib.  

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Penne alla Vodka and Keesha Sangiovese 2006

We had some dear friends over for dinner the other night after a long day of picking apples (140 lbs!) and making rich and spicy apple butter. We had Penne alla Vodka with a Keesha Sangiovese 2006. It was a wonderful pairing. You can find the recipe here and a fine review of the Keesha here. By the way, I agree with the good folks over at Eat Well, Eat Cheap (see links), California Sangiovese has a lovely kiss of new world fruit that Italian Chiantis often lack. The Keesha drank like a 20+ dollar wine for under 10. If you can find it anywhere at that price, buy a case! 

The Great 10.00 Wine Hunt

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Stonecap Riesling Columbia Valley 2006

This was an incredible steal. Last week we went for our monthly trip to Costco. As we were coasting through the wine section (one of my favorite places), I spied cases of Stonecap Riesling selling for what appeared to be a mistaken price. I had bought a couple of cases of Stonecap Syrah 05' for 58.00 a case (with a 24.00 rebate!) earlier in the year (a deal which made me want to do a jig), but the Riesling was displayed at 40.00 a case with the same 24.00 rebate. Sweating with the numbers I realized that this came to 16.00 a case or 1.33 a bottle! Nuts. I incredulously asked an employee if this was for real. It was. Turns out that Costco had bought so much that they were trying to get rid of what they had left. I obliged and absconded with the last four cases. And what a fine bottle of wine it is for 1.33; I noticed that a local store was recently selling it for close to 8.00.

All this goes to show that the economy is taking its toll on the wine industry. Many wineries have too much stock and not enough liquidity. That equals some amazing deals for bargain hunters. Keep your eyes open and look into sites that are especially focussed on providing value (see the Cinderellawine and Winetilsoldout links). Do your homework, but now is the time to put away a few special bottles for those anniversaries in the future and buy everyday wine for less than soda pop!

Father Capon on Wine and Creation

"God makes wine. For all its difficulties there is no way around the doctrine of creation. But notice the tense: He makes; not made. He did not create once upon a time, only to find himself saddled now with the unavoidable and embarrassing result of hat first decision. That is only to welsh on the idea of an unnecessary world, to make creation a self-perpetuating pool game which is contingent only at the start--which needs only the first push on the cue ball to keep it going forever. It will not do: The world is more unnecessary than that. It is unnecessary now; it cries in this moment for a cause to hold it in being. It was St. Thomas, I think, who pointed out long ago that if God wanted to get rid of the universe, He would not have to do anything; He would have to stop doing something. Wine is--the fruit of the vine stands in act, outside of nothing--because it is His present pleasure to have it so. The creative act is contemporary, intimate, and immediate to each part, parcel and period of the world.

Do you see what this means? In a general way we concede that God made the world out of joy: He didn't need it; He just thought it was a good thing. But if you confine His activity in creation to the beginning only, you lose most of the joy in the subsequent shuffle of history. Sure, it was good back then you say, but since then, we've been eating leftovers. How much better a world it becomes when you see Him creating at all times and at every time; when you see that the preserving of the old in being is just as much creation as the bringing of the new out of nothing. Each thing, at every moment, become the delight of His hand, the apple of His eye. The bloom of yeast lies upon the grapeskins year after year because He likes it; [fermentation] is a dependable process because, every September, He says That was nice; do it again."

Tuesday, October 05, 2010


First things first: Why another blog? Well, in my case it's because of love. This is a blog about the things I love for the people I love. Like St. Augustine, I believe that we were made to love; to love God, our neighbor, and the staggering world He has made. So, the forays that follow are meant to trace the thread of delight where ever it leads: wine, coffee, cheese, bread, olives, figs, and the ways these things shape us into a joyful, and savory people.

By nature I am an enthusiast. I really love good wine, the zing of blue cheese, green olives, and the smell of coffee just this side of a Full City Roast. But I also love the way, under the blessing of God, these good gifts fill our lives and bind us to other people. God in not a solipsist, he is a fountain of gifts who loves to share. As Solomon said, "It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich and he adds no sorrow to it." So properly, enthusiasm is about the joy of sharing.

And finally, I see this blog as an exercise in gratitude. Gratitude for the joy of being and the goodness of God's gifts. Gratitude is the only thing that can preserve delight from the acid of snobbery and pride. Creation is a gift and we should receive it with open and generous hands. Enjoy!